Last week I wrote about “The Role of the Church with Youth,” and I’d like to follow that up with things we can do to change the culture of our churches where we actually expect something of our young adults (youth). I really believe involvement is the key! We need to give them a job…not entertain our young people. I wrote an entire section about this in my book.
I’m convinced that everyone likes to be needed. When we aren’t part of something, or aren’t involved, then we don’t feel needed. One of the areas where the Church struggles today is plugging in our young adults. We, the Church, must do all we can to integrate our young men and women into every facet of church life. Remember, Jesus was 12 years old when he had to “be about his Father’s business.”
So, why not include our 12 year olds in the adult choir? Why shouldn’t we be training and mentoring them in the various functions of the church (the Father’s business)? Certainly an older soprano in the choir can teach and mentor a younger soprano or an older bass can teach a younger bass. We do this at our church and it’s amazing to see the ownership the young adults have when they have a part or stake in what goes on at the church. The bond that grows between the older teacher and the young apprentice is special as well. When a young person has a job or responsibility, they feel they belong, then the church is no longer just their parent’s church. They say, “It’s my church.” You will hear them say, “I get to sing in the choir at my church.’” It becomes “my” church instead of just a place they are made to go.
In our church, young adults can be ushers and greeters, help teach children’s Sunday school classes and work on local and even international mission projects (as we discussed last time). Young adults can attend any of our adult Sunday school classes, they help run the audio/visual equipment for services, work in Vacation Bible School, volunteer to serve meals to shut-ins, help prepare and serve and clean-up on Wednesday nights for our church-wide meals.
They are being trained to play in the church praise band and regularly participate in our services in music and song, like our Passion Play.
Let me state at this point: young people are not to become substitutes for adults. We recognize they are indeed young adults and they need training and mentoring. Rather, they are essential, complementary components to our more seasoned adults. Again, what we have implemented is what we see in that great mentoring passage in Titus 2, where the older teaches and trains the younger.
We work very hard to provide activities that allow participation with adults in family-oriented settings. The goal is not to group the young adults together for play and entertainment. Doing so only reinforces to them that they have an identity separate from the rest of the adult community. I’m not saying God can’t work in youth group settings. However, I’m convinced the Scriptural path of mentoring and giving our young people a stake in their church is a better way to accomplish the goal of raising Christ-centered young adults and easing the transition between childhood and adulthood. It’s obvious by the mass exodus of our young adults from our churches that “youth ministry” is not very successful.
You see, we are involved in a war for the hearts, souls, and minds of our children and our families. I believe the Church is doing a terrible job of transmitting her religious heritage to the next generation. Sermons in many of our churches are now more “therapeutic” than instructional. Our worship services have become grounded more in what we feel than in what we know and understand about Scripture. In many cases we have stopped training and discipling our people.
Why is it that the Church, in many instances, no longer represents the power of the action of God in the world? We have compromised the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Church has quit training and evangelizing and it is literally dying a slow death in America. This slow death is akin to the proverbial frog in the kettle that slowly has the temperature turned up so that the tepid water eventually boils him to death.
We are being boiled to death by entertainment, “spectatorism” and a cheap, prosperity gospel. Church attendance continues to drop nationwide and we have forgotten the goal of advancing God’s kingdom on earth, instead of our kingdom. The purpose of the Church is to be God’s missionary people in the world. We are to be Jesus’ ambassadors (2 Cor. 5:20). He’s expecting us to make His appeal through us! We are to be adding disciples to the flock, not just fattening those that are already in the flock with entertainment, and fun and games that offer little substance each week.
For many in the current generation, the Church is seen as fractured, segregated, watered-down, and devoid of any cultural relevancy. What passes for Christianity and true discipleship in many of our churches is often just a faint shadow of what the Scriptures actually teach and admonish the Church to be. The typical teen in an American church feels little or no sense of ownership in their church simply because they do not feel they are a part of that church.
My prayer is the Church will get back to being the one Church and function as a complete body again. Leaders, I want to encourage you to involve your young adults in the church. Discourage peer association at times when the worship service is taking place if it is deterring their discipleship or ability to listen and learn. It is sometimes necessary to discourage young adults from going to the back of the church and sitting together slumped down in their seats. Encourage families to sit together. There is plenty of time to socialize with friends before or after the service. What is the purpose for being at church in the first place? It’s to be trained and equipped while being edified and encouraged.
If you have a youth ministry at your church, or you are a youth leader, seek to embrace the facilitator role of bringing families together and seek to minister to the entire family. No longer should you see yourself in the role of having responsibility for raising young adults, instead seek to get the message across to the parents that you are transferring this responsibility back to them. A good intermediate step, (we are doing this at our church), is to have parent/child Bible Studies or Sunday school classes. The youth minister can begin these classes, but gradually hand them off to the parents. Again, if there are activities to be planned like an outing to go ski or ride bikes, plan it as a church-wide activity. We don’t have a “youth” committee at our church. We have a “family” committee. We plan activities for the family that will reach out and impact other families in our community. It is important to get outside of our four walls and no longer just tithe to ourselves, but spend that money on reaching people. Everyone needs to be involved in that process and that certainly includes our young adults. So, let’s give them a job! And when we do, they’ll want to be at church and they will become a productive part of “their” church!